FROM OUR EDITORIAL TEAM
WRITTEN BY: T’ara Smith
On Wednesday, May 22, Colorado became the first state in the U.S. to put a price cap on insulin. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, who lost his brother to Type 1 diabetes three years ago. The law caps the copay for insulin at $100/month for those with private insurance. “We will declare that the days of price gouging are over in Colorado,” Polis said.
Diabetes-related medical costs in Colorado alone have risen to almost $4 billion annually, with $700 million accounting for prescription drugs. Almost 20,000 residents in Colorado are diagnosed with diabetes each year and the majority of them have Type 1. In the U.S., overall costs related to the diagnosis of diabetes are up to $327 billion.
According to CBS Denver, many individuals with diabetes in Colorado are paying $600 to $900 per month for vials of insulin. At least for those with private insurance, this bill caps co-pays at the pharmacy at $100 regardless of the number of vials or type of insulin needed. It remains unclear how this will impact patients in the high-deductible phase of their plans, but Colorado lawmakers and advocates are hopeful that this bill represents a starting point for insulin price reform.
“For Coloradans living with Type 1 diabetes, insulin is essential to their survival. It is the same as oxygen. The skyrocketing cost of insulin is outrageous and it is literally putting people’s lives at risk,” said Roberts. “With this new law, Coloradans will no longer be forced to choose between this life-saving and life-sustaining drug and their other expenses.”
As a result of the law, Attorney General Phil Wiser will also investigate the past price increases of insulin and the companies involved. Rep. Roberts said the investigation could jumpstart helping other states who are attempting to cap prices on insulin and could be the tip of the iceberg in assuring that other drug manufacturers don’t inflate prices to unreasonable levels. He also added that “this soon-to-be law is just a start. I look forward to working with the Attorney General’s office on their investigation and to bring forward more legislation for transparency and lower costs for Coloradans with diabetes.”
This push for manufacturer accountability comes on the heels of immense outcry already this year regarding insulin costs and the effect it’s having on people all across the country. Stories of insulin rationing and deaths related to lack of insulin affordability have been prominent. On April 10, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a series of hearings with representatives from insulin manufacturers as well as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to answer questions about the high and rising price of insulin in the United States.